The Symbolism Of Sin In The Scarlet Letter By Nathaniel Hawthorne

Superior Essays
Scarlet Letter Theme
Nathaniel Hawthorne was an American Novelist in the 1800s. He wrote the book The Scarlet Letter, a story about secret sin that takes place in a small puritan town in Boston Massachusetts in the 1600s. In the book Hester Prynne, the main character is pregnant with a child although her husband has been missing for years. She is accused of adultery and is forced to wear a embroidered scarlet letter “A” on her chest. The father of pearl their child is reverend Dimmsdale. As the character's life unfolds it gives a view of how secret sin can affect a person. In his novel, The Scarlet Letter Nathaniel Hawthorne uses the symbolism of Pearl, Dimmesdale and the Black Blossom to contribute to the overall theme of secret sin. To
…show more content…
His name represents his character's traits. Dimmsdale dims the truth about his sin, keeping his adultery a secret. His health dims as he continues to keep pearl a secret it takes a toll on his body and eventually this was his downfall. His guilty secret killed him. Hawthorne explains “They go about among their fellow creatures, looking pure as new-fallen snow while their hearts are all speckled and spotted with iniquity at which they cannot rid themselves.’’ (Hawthorne 172). Dimmsdale is explaining that all people have secret sin they just lie to themselves and each other. However confessing is the only way to live purely and without sin. This is ironic however because he himself has secret sin. As the book continues Hawthorne say “hast thou found peace?”... “None!-nothing but despair!” he answered but what else could I look for being what I am”(Hawthorne 103). In this quote Heaster asks dimmesdale if he has found peace. He hasn't he has dimmed all purity and truth from his life and in result he cannot find peace. Dimmesdale has kept the truth locked up inside for so long his secret sin is killing …show more content…
The Black Flower represents the growing of sin and the darkness of retributive punishment. Hawthorne explains, “... The black flower of civilized society, a prison(Hawthorne 46). Hawthorne is explaining that the prison is a ugly mark on civilization. The prison stands at the middle of the town. It prompts a feeling of uncertainty in the towns people. Reminding them of the consequence of secret sin. This prison is where Hester is forced to stay after being committed of adultery. It’s also where pearl was born. As the book continues, Hester’s husband Chillingworth who comes back after being abducted by Indians becomes Dimmesdale's physician. He knows that the reason Dimmesdale is dying is he is keeping a big sin secret. Chillingworth explains. “Let the black flower blossom as it may”(Hawthorne ). Chillingworth is telling Dimmesdale that he deserves the pain he is feeling because he brought it open himself. The blossom represents retributive punishment for secret sin. Hester is punished by society in the prison and through social outcast. Dimmesdale punishes

Related Documents

  • Superior Essays

    The notion of black simultaneously being used in sinful and holy contexts piques when Dimmesdale confesses to lying about committing adultery with Hester on the scaffold, he cries, “I, whom you behold in these black garments of the priesthood” (Hawthorne 131). His usage of “you” implies that the citizens have to take responsibility for putting Dimmesdale in such a position. The pastor, an icon of pure and holy principles, adorns the colors of sin and evil and blames the townspeople for adorning him with such…

    • 1397 Words
    • 6 Pages
    Superior Essays
  • Great Essays

    “I am alone, and miserable; man will not associate with me.”(97). Therefore, him being miserable is another way of expressing how he feels about being alone. Even in the story the Monster talks about being miserable but in the sentence it could also say lonely. “Here then I retreated, and lay down, happy to have found shelter. However miserable, from the inclemency of the season, and still more from the barbarity of main”(71).…

    • 1249 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Great Essays
  • Great Essays

    In this quote, Hawthorne uses symbolism to convey the differences between Puritanism and nature. The prison, which is ugly and overgrown with weeds, represents Puritanism as cold and unforgiving. A metaphor also describes the prison as a black flower of society. Black represents sin, and the prison is a black flower because it feeds on sin. In stark contrast, the beautiful rose-bush embodies the forgiving demeanor of nature.…

    • 1516 Words
    • 7 Pages
    Great Essays
  • Improved Essays

    Hester, being publicly embarrassed, has learned how to live with the darkness planted inside her; however, this does not mean that she lives a happy life. Hester definitely commits a horrible wrongdoing; however, the community’s harsh punishment may have been the effect of national sin, or America’s tendency in history to inflict unbearable guilt upon those who have committed a crime. Therefore, readers are given the decision to decide whether Hester or the community is guilty of sin (The Scarlet Letter). Dimmesdale, however, experiences a level of shame that is almost unbearable. Having to keep his confession secret, Dimmesdale never learns how to cope with the darkness inside him, yet harms himself for his terrible transgression.…

    • 1414 Words
    • 6 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Improved Essays

    Scarlet Letter Morality

    • 826 Words
    • 4 Pages

    Unfortunately however, it does not help Dimmesdale because he is still hiding his crime and is not receiving any public recognition at all for it. “His inwards trouble drove him to practices more in accordance with the old, corrupted faith of Rome... In Mr. Dimmesdale’s secret closet, under lock and key, there was a bloody scourge. Often times, this Protestant and Puritan divine had plied it on his own shoulders laughing bitterly… It was his custom, too, as it has been that of many other pious Puritans, to fast-...” (141). This shows the numerous amounts of ways and history behind Puritan and Protestant penances.…

    • 826 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Improved Essays

    According to Hawthorne, it is the greatest evil of all; however, self-righteousness is not the root of the problem. If one is to keep digging, they will find that the seed of the problem lies in the question of salvation – where does justification come from? When Brown abandons his family and neighbors at the witches meeting, he has rejected the salvation found in confession “that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God,” (Rom. 3:23). Ironically, as Brown seeks self-justification in an attempt to reach heaven, he has actually surrendered himself to the devil by living in a state of pseudo-salvation (Johnson n.p.).…

    • 834 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Superior Essays

    To the readers, the scarlet letter is a symbol of the sins of society, and that Hester is a scapegoat for the sins of all of the people that lived in the town. Despite everyone in the town most likely having sinned at some point or another, Hester is the one that gets caught in her sin, and is thus punished severely for it. Hawthorne also uses the symbol of a rosebush, seen in the initial chapters of the story before Hester leaves the jail. The different colors used in the rosebush, such as “the black is in contrast with the implied, but unstated, red of the rosebush next to the prison doors.” (Austin 3). The different colors shows symbols similar to that of ying and yang.…

    • 1748 Words
    • 7 Pages
    Superior Essays
  • Improved Essays

    Symbolism plays a key role in the development of the novel, T he Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Three of the symbols are the scarlet letter, Pearl, and the Black Man. The scarlet letter is a reminder of sin and makes up Hester 's identity. Pearl doesn 't recognize Hester when she takes it off and forces her to put it back on her chest. The Black Man is a commonly used symbol in the novel, he represents sin and evil on the world.…

    • 1035 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Improved Essays

    Dimmesdale affects his emotional health, his severe depression, by not exposing his sin, but the author also shares a time where he, “tortured, but could not purify, himself” (132). Dimmesdale punished himself in an extremely violent fashion in the passage, of which Hawthorne does not share. He is guilt-ridden because of the sin, but he also feels poorly about letting Hester suffer through her public shame without him and putting up a false image of himself to the public. Throughout the novel, Dimmesdale feels so terribly about the situation, he has to live with a so-called doctor, Roger Chillingworth to give him the medical attention that he needs, confirming that the shame had made him physically ill. At the end of the novel, Dimmesdale confesses, however he dies shortly after his confession to show that because Dimmesdale waits almost a decade to share his sin, it still kills…

    • 1053 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Superior Essays

    His failing health became an outward representation of his sinful heart, and he was plagued by guilt throughout the book because he lived a life devoid of repentance. By the end of The Scarlet Letter, Dimmesdale realizes that he can no longer live under the burden of his secret sin, so he confesses it with his last breath before God and all of the townspeople. Committing adultery with Hester Prynne was definitely seen as one of the vilest sins in the Puritan community, and Dimmesdale would have faced punishment similar to the sentencing of Hester; however, living with the guilt of his unconfessed sin destroyed him and pushed him away from God with no hope of…

    • 1467 Words
    • 6 Pages
    Superior Essays